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ROT AN UNBS EXPOSED: Ghost Chinese Company Given Multi-Billion Contract, ED Accuses Board Boss of Spying on Him

Unbs headquarters
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Rot at Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has been exposed, with shockingly questionable procurement deals and governance challenges coming to the fore. UNBS Executive Director David Livingstone Ebiru accusations against Board Chairman Charles Musekura that he is spying on him, and revelation of a ghost Chinese company that was given a multi-billion contract are just a tip of the iceberg. And in a serious country, these revelations would cause heads to roll.

On July 18, Ebiru and Musekura appeared before Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) chaired by Nakawa West MP Joel Ssenyonyi to respond to queries raised in the Auditor General’s report.

Earlier on Monday, UNBS officials appeared before the Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry which was being presided over by Deputy Chairperson Catherine Lamwaka.

During this interface, it emerged that one of the six companies contracted by UNBS to provide Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) services was a ghost Chinese firm.

The firm, Helmsman Quality & Technology Services Ltd (HQTS), has been labelled ‘briefcase’ since it has no known physical address and staff. The

Lamwaka and other committee members observed that during their recent oversight visit to India and Dubai where the companies are domiciled, the committee discovered that HQTS did not have an established physical address in Dubai as presented in the bidding documents.

“When we visited HQTS, we found only two people who seemed to have traveled from China. Even the office seemed hired just for the purpose of meeting us and yet they told us they have been around for years,” said David Isabirye (FDC – Jinja North Division).

He added that the staff they found at the said office did not even know where the laboratory or even toilets were located. “It took them more than two hours to locate and lead us to their laboratory. None of the staff even knew where the lavatories are.”

Geofrey Kayemba (NUP – Bukomansimbi South County) said their oversight visit unearthed flaws which indict UNBS for not conducting due diligence on the firms before awarding them the three-year contracts which commenced in March 2023.

“It is visible that HQTS is a fake company. UNBS should be accountable for it for not doing a good background check before awarding the contract,” Kayemba said, adding that the contracts committee and procurement officer should be answerable.

Martin Imalingat, a member of the Evaluation Committee and, also Manager Imports Inspection, UNBS, concurred with the committee observations that indeed HQTS did not have an office in Dubai. “In our evaluation report, we indeed noted that HQTS did not have a physical office and therefore, recommended that the contract is not awarded to them,” Imalingat said.

EBIRU, MUSEKURA FACEOFF

Back to the Cosase meeting, Musekura, the UNBS Board boss, did not mince his words when it came to expose corruption he is supposed to supervise.

“UNBS is full of corrupt inspectors. A further investigation is required to clean that place. Let us not whitewash the issue,” said Musekura.

He made it clear that officials have made it a habit to take bribes and allow substandard goods to be imported into the country.

He also accused officials at UNBS of making government lose billions through corrupt exemptions.

Musekura further noted that Uganda was a rich country, adding that he believed the bureau had more capacity to collect more money than it has been reporting.  

When his turn to speak came, Ebiru accused the UNBS Board chairman of plotting to spy on him and that he had no idea about the information the board boss had presented.

The Chinese firm contracted by UNBS is not the first one to be hired by a Ugandan government agency. Months ago, Italian investor Pinetti was in the news over a coffee deal. Museveni would later describe Pinetti as a savior whom nobody should touch. (See Details Here and There).

Last year, government awarded a multi-billion contract to a bankrupt Russian firm to handle the car tracking devices project. (See Details Here and There).

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